Perhaps I’m too trusting, but when the number on my dumbbell says “20”, I kinda sorta expect it to really weigh twenty pounds.

I had been training with a pair of 20-pounders that were purchased individually, so they were slightly different in form. The shape disparity was subtle in the heads but noticeable in that one dumbbell had a teensy-bit wider bar, making the grip feel different. Well, that would always throw me off, because the thicker bar made me tire faster, or so I thought. I searched PubMed for a viable explanation and went so far as to contact exercise scientist Mike Nelson about whether he’d seen research on the connection between grip diameter and fatigue. And then — DUH! — it occurred to me to actually weigh the stupid things!

If it says "20", it MUST weigh 20#, right? Right?

Okay, it wasn’t exactly twenty pounds, which surprised me…but not as much as what I got weighing the OTHER dumbbell:

Well, THIS one's gotta be 20#, right? EEEEEK!

Gee, that explains the sensation of imbalance! A full two pounds-worth. That may not seem like much, but when you’re dealing with twenty pounds on your triceps, it makes quite a difference.

I emerged from this experience somewhat wiser, all the while hoping Mike didn’t think I was a total moron. Incidentally, I happened to weigh my 30-pounders and both came up as thirty-one pounds. At least they were consistent.

Caveat emptor.